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Federal Government green-lights States BER rorts



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Senator Brett Mason 

Shadow Minister for Universities and Research  Liberal Senator for Queensland   

Federal Government green-lights States BER rorts

21/10/10

The Federal government drafted the agreements with the States to implement the Building the Education Revolution program in a way that slaps their State Labor mates on the wrists, while providing for significantly more severe financial penalties for the non-government school sector, according to Senator Brett Mason, Shadow Minister for Universities and Research.

The latest revelations about the troubled BER program emerged today during Senator Mason’s questioning at the Senate Education Committee Additional Estimates hearings.

“The Federal government had drafted two different versions of an agreement to implement the BER - one version was signed with State and Territory education authorities, and another one with the non-government school authorities in each state,” said Senator Mason.

“We have a very worrying situation where the non-government school sector is being held up to a significantly higher standard, and can be punished financially much more severely for breaches of the agreement than the States.

“Under the agreement with the States, the Federal Government can seek repayment of ‘some or all of the Funding’ which has not been ‘spent in accordance with this Agreement’ or ‘acquitted to the Commonwealth’s satisfaction’.

“Under the agreement with the non-government school authorities, if the non-government schools do not comply with the agreement, the Federal Government can seek repayment of a specified amount, including all the funding provided to the non-government school authority.

“This means that independent and Catholic schools can be punished a lot more severely for any breaches of BER agreement - they can be required to repay all their funding. The state education authorities can be required to repay only the money the Federal Government deems was misspent.

“There is no good policy reason for this difference in treatment. It’s not just discriminatory in theory, it also does not make sense in practice, considering the respective performance of the States and the non-government sectors in delivering the BER.

“After all, it’s the non-government sector which has by and large delivered its BER projects without problems, on time, and providing good value for money, whereas the

implementation by the States has been plagued by waste, mismanagement, and overcharging. And now we know that the Federal Government designed and drafted their agreements with the States - either carelessly or on purpose - in such a way that it can’t punish them anywhere as severely as Catholic and independent schools.”